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President addresses G77 & China Summit in Cuba

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe delivered a compelling address at the Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the G77 & China in Havana, Cuba yesterday (15). In his speech, President Wickremesinghe emphasized the crucial role of science, technology and innovation in overcoming the current development challenges faced by developing nations worldwide.

President Wickremesinghe began by commending Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez for convening the summit and acknowledging Cuba’s historic role as a champion for the concerns and aspirations of developing nations within various multilateral forums.

He noted the unprecedented challenges confronting the global South, including the pandemic, climate change, food, fertilizer and energy crises, which threaten the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and exacerbate the global debt crisis.

President Wickremesinghe then delved into the historical perspective of technological development, highlighting how Europe’s advancements in the 15th century, such as gunpowder, cannons and ocean-going ships, enabled it to conquer other parts of the world, resulting in the technological divide seen today. He underscored that a new technological divide is emerging in the 21st century, necessitating the adoption of digitalization and new technologies, such as Big Data, IoT, AI, Blockchain, Biotechnology and Genome Sequencing, to bridge the gap.

He emphasised the importance of an educated manpower well equipped with knowledge and technological know-how essential for the smooth flow of the needed transformations which will lubricate the development and catching up process in developing nations. 

The President outlined his government’s initiatives, including the evaluation of underperforming Science and Technology Research Institutes and the establishment of a Technology and Innovation Council and a Digital Transformation Agency. Additionally, Sri Lanka plans to create four new universities specializing in new technologies, with one being the result of technological cooperation between India and Sri Lanka. The International Climate University will be the 05th. 

Addressing the digital divide, President Wickremesinghe cited challenges such as limited access to costly technology, insufficient digital skills and infrastructure, cultural and institutional barriers and financing constraints. 

He called for effective cooperation mechanisms within the G77 and China, including the revitalization of the Consortium of Science & Technology & Innovation for the South (COSTIS) and the commitment of member countries to earmark 1% of their GDP for R&D over a decade.

President Wickremesinghe stressed the importance of collaboration between governments and the private sector and proposed creating technological platforms in fields like digitalization, health, medication, AI and renewable energy including green hydrogen, inspired by the European Union’s Technology & Innovation Platforms. 

The brain drain from the South to the North and the resulting loss of educated manpower is another threat to the development of Science Technology and Innovation  of the South, President Wickremesinghe said, adding that China, India, Japan and South Korea have developed Science Technology and Innovation by nurturing their manpower. “Therefore we must ask for compensation from the North for the loss of our manpower,” he added.

He also urged increased South-South cooperation and proposed a scheme akin to the Colombo Plan to enhance collaboration, exchange best practices and develop policies that harness the transformational potential of science, technology and innovation.

In conclusion, President Wickremesinghe reaffirmed Sri Lanka’s commitment to supporting the new Havana Declaration and called for the collective voice of G77 and China to be heard in international fora.

The President’s address underscored the significance of science, technology and innovation in shaping the future of developing nations, making it a pivotal moment at the G77 and China Summit.

(President’s Media Division)

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SLFP to support no-confidence motion against the Speaker

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The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has announced its endorsement of the no-confidence motion to be brought against the Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

Accordingly, the SLFP announced that it will support the motion being brought against the Speaker by the opposition, and will vote in favour of it.

On Monday (26 Feb.), several Opposition members, led by Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Leader Sajith Premadasa, signed a motion of no confidence against the Speaker, claiming that he had violated the Constitution.

As such, a group of MPs belonging to the opposition in Parliament including M. A. Sumanthiran, Lakshman Kiriella, Prof. G. L. Pieris, Tissa Attanayake, Chandima Weerakkody and Shan Wijayalal de Silva, had inked the motion for approving the much-disputed Online Safety Bill amidst ‘irregular procedures’.

The no-confidence motion pointed out that the Speaker had ignored the Supreme Court’s recommendations pertaining to Sections 13, 17, 20, 33 (6), 34 (1), 35 (1), 21, 22 and 33 of the Online Safety Bill.

Earlier this month, Opposition Leader charged that the Speaker had ignored nine recommendations given by the Supreme Court while enacting the Online Safety Act, adding that they no longer have faith in him.

(adaderana.lk)

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School outdoor activities suspended over soaring temperatures

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The Education Ministry has instructed all respective school authorities to refrain from making students participate in strenuous outdoor activities until Friday (March 01) at schools as temperatures are expected to rise further.

Accordingly, Sports Day events, sports practices or any other scheduled outdoor activities are urged to be suspended for the time being.

Provincial and zonal authorities of education have been instructed to brief school principals about the matter, the ministry said in a press release.

In addition, school administrations are required to comply with the health guidelines issued by the Health Ministry and the Education Ministry.

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Court suspends divestiture process of SLT & Lanka Hospitals

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The Court of Appeal yesterday (27) issued an interim order preventing authorities from proceeding with the divestiture process of Sri Lanka Telecom and Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC, until March 12.

Three Petitions were filed for Sri Lanka Telecom PLC including by Lyca Mobiles, and S.M.R. M company, while two petitions were filed for Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC including by Lyca Leasing Holdings.

Upon the oral submissions made by President’s Counsel Kuvera De Zoysa, Court of Appeal Justice D.N. Samarakoon issued notices on respondents, returnable for March 12.

The petitioners named Minister of Finance Ranil Wickremesinghe, State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe, the members of the special Cabinet-appointed negotiating committee for the purpose of selecting pre-qualified bidders for the strategic divestiture pertaining to 51.34% shares of Lanka Hospitals PLC and several others as respondents.

Kuvera De Zoysa, PC with Raslka Dissanayake, Sajana de Zoysa, Dinusha Pathirana and Shablr Huzalr instructed by Sanath Wijewardane appeared for the petitioners.

The petitioners had informed the court that they had submitted bids per the required criteria for the divestiture of the Sri Lankan Government’s shares of 50.23% in Sri Lanka Telecom PLC and 51.34% in Lanka Hospitals Corporation PLC.

The petitioners alleged that, however, the Cabinet of Ministers had rejected the bids without providing any clear explanations, adding that the decision was against the law.

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